Chapter 10: "Crossroads"

Like any other day in the early summer, the Bokuto traffic department was bustling with work. It was just the first week of September, but most of the police officers in the said department were looking forward to a brief respite to enjoy the summer atmosphere. Aside from their impending summer vacation leaves, the officers also found joy in the fact that Miyuki and Natsumi were in good terms again. When Natsumi arrived back from America, they absolutely had no idea that the two best friends had reconciled. They only found out that things were back to normal between the both of them when they arrived at the station with Natsumi earnestly complaining that Miyuki didn't try hard enough to wake her up. It took a few minutes of blank faces and awkward silence until Yoriko finally had the sense to jump out of her seat and celebrate. For the rest of the day with the exception of their patrol time, Natsumi was frequently interviewed about her trip to America. Conversations about why she and Miyuki fought were carefully brushed aside, but she did gracefully explain how she and Miyuki had made up. In the background, the chief simply grinned at how his plan worked beautifully. He silently thought that making Natsumi attend the international convention would eventually lead to the reconciliation of his two top officers.

While everyone was generally happy with the situation, a number of officers in the department were significantly happier than the others. Nakajima for one was vastly happy that his beloved Miyuki was back to her normal self. While Natsumi was abroad for the convention, Miyuki had been really distant not just to him but to the rest of their co-workers. Yoriko was happy because she didn't have to take a turn at accompanying Miyuki on patrol anymore while Aoi was just genuinely happy that everyone was happy. Of course, Natsumi and Miyuki were also pleased not just because they had forgiven each other, but mostly because they could revel in each other's company again whether it was at work or not.

Natsumi was back to her usual cheerful and energetic self, but her closest friends noticed that something was amiss. Miyuki often caught her partner spacing out during their regular patrols. It was easy for the blue-haired mechanic to see that her friend was deeply thinking about something. It took her a couple of weeks to finally ask what was bothering Natsumi and she expected her friend to not give her a straight answer. Surprisingly, Natsumi had easily told her about what had transpired during her last day of her trip to Los Angeles.

"You knew didn't you?" Natsumi accused her partner as they sat in their parked patrol car. "You knew that Aki had feelings for me." She felt somewhat betrayed that her friend kept it to herself, but she knew that Miyuki was right to withhold the truth from her.

Miyuki sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "I was suspicious, but I only found out for sure a month or so after that press conference where Aki admitted that she was gay."

"What made you certain then?"

Miyuki smiled in spite of herself as she remembered how she became convinced of Aki's feelings for her partner. "It was the way she looked at you," she admitted. "I don't know how you could have missed it especially when the two of you were talking to each other. Even when she looked at you from afar, I could see it in her eyes." She dreamily gazed out of the window. "It never showed disinterest whenever she was looking at you. There was so much yearning."

Natsumi blushed as she herself remembered that same look Aki gave her when they last met. The involuntary shudder that raced down her spine and the rush of heat throughout her body was just intense. She didn't want to admit to Miyuki that for several nights since her return from America, she had frequent dreams of a certain raven-haired woman. It didn't help that not all of those dreams were… tame. It was also a good thing that Miyuki slept heavily each time Natsumi snuck into the bathroom to take a cold shower to relieve her heated flesh and nerves.

"Has she contacted you at all?" Miyuki asked, interrupting Natsumi recent thoughts.

Natsumi shook her head. "I suppose she's busy…" she slowly replied, suddenly feeling a wave of sadness go through her. "I don't know Miyuki… she confessed to me, but if she really had feelings for me, she would have at least called or sent an email, right?"

Miyuki reached over and patted her friend's shoulder. "I'm sure she's just tied up with work, Natsumi," she assured her partner. "And didn't she say that she won't be taking the next step until you move on?"

Natsumi felt her throat tighten at the reminder. Until now, she had kept Shouji's ring on her finger. It seemed wrong to just forget about him so that she could get into a relationship with Aki. "Miyuki… wouldn't I be breaking my promise to Shouji? I told him that I'd wait forever when he proposed to me."

"I don't think he'd want for you to remain unhappy for the rest of your life," Miyuki carefully told her friend. "It's never been easy to move on from a love lost." She grew quiet for a few moments before speaking again. "Natsumi, I don't want to see you unhappy and the only times I've seen you happy since Tokairin passed away was when Aki came along." She took both of Natsumi's hands into her own and seriously gazed into those emerald green orbs. "Moving on doesn't entail forgetting. I hope you realize that, Natsumi."

The brunette slowly nodded her head and squeezed her friend's hands with her own before letting go. "I know… I just miss him, Miyuki."

"I understand," Miyuki replied. "Even though she hasn't contacted you at all, I am pretty sure that Aki misses you as well." She cocked her head slightly to the side and softly smiled at her partner. "I know you miss her too."

Natsumi grunted and turned away, feeling her face heat up in embarrassment. "Of course I miss her!" She kept silent as dispatch radioed them to check out a disturbance near their current location. "We have the day off this Saturday, right?" she asked. The said day off was coming up in two days.

"Yes. Why are you asking?"

Natsumi cleared her throat as she came to a decision. "Would you mind if I leave you on your own on that day? I… got a lot of thinking to do."

"Coming to terms?" Miyuki asked.

"Well… yeah."

Miyuki smiled. "Take all the time you need then," she told her partner before starting her car and driving off.


Three weeks later…


Natsumi and Miyuki arrived at the Bokuto Police Station at the end of their afternoon shift. They merely had to do their reports then submit it before they could go home. As they entered the traffic department, Yoriko ran up to them and practically shoved an open magazine at their faces.

"What?" Natsumi demanded as she tried to push the periodical away from her face.

"Look at it Natsumi!" Yoriko ordered.

"I'm looking and I still don't see the point!"

"Read for crying out loud!" Yoriko retorted.

Natsumi growled, but decided to do as she was told. She wanted nothing more but to go home and rest up for the following day. As she once more eyed the periodical, she realized that it was a popular sports magazine. On that particular page, she saw the heading of "Asian X Games: Japan" and saw various pictures of half pipes for the skateboard, BMX and inline skate events, dirt ramps for the motocross events, and various climbing walls. She briskly skimmed through the article, which told her that the X Games were going to be held in Tokyo and what events were going to be included in the competition. Towards the end of the article, the author listed well-known competitors who were joining the games. Her jaw dropped when she saw the last name mentioned.

"She's coming here to compete, Natsumi!" Yoriko excitedly said, hopping around. "Aren't you glad?" Last week, Natsumi told Aoi, Yoriko, Saori and Nakajima the whole story. It took some explaining, but her friends were accepting.

Natsumi frowned and struggled with the complex feelings within her. Up to now, Aki still hadn't contacted her. She wasn't sure if the boulderer still felt the same way about her from their last meeting. She had assured Miyuki that she had come to terms with Shouji's death and was supposedly ready to move on, but things were easier said than done. She could not promise how her heart would react once she faces Logan "Aki" Walsh again. She cleared her throat and mastered herself. "I don't know if we'll even get to see her especially since we're on duty."

Nakajima approached them and offered a kind smile at the short-haired brunette. "Kachou said that a select number of us are to help with the traffic and crowd control in the competition's surrounding area." He nodded a greeting at Miyuki before continuing. "He put up the list already and you and Kobayakawa have been assigned."

"I'm sure you'll meet with her despite how busy she'll be competing," Aoi put in.

Natsumi looked down at her feet. "Why am I feeling so anxious?" she muttered angrily to herself. She felt an arm wrap around her shoulders and looked up to see that it was Miyuki.

The ace mechanic gave her longtime partner a comforting smile. "Who wouldn't be feeling anxious? I have a feeling Aki-san is also feeling the same."

"Why would she be anxious?" Natsumi asked.

"Because she's the one who confessed and if I'm right, she purposely joined the competition so that she could come to Japan and get an answer from you," Miyuki replied. "She's probably worrying whether you're going to accept her or not."

Natsumi sighed as she walked over to her desk and sat heavily onto her chair. "Am I an idiot for feeling that I'm not worth it? What if I'm still hung up on the past? It's going to hurt her."

"Aki-chan will accept you no matter your flaws," Miyuki told her friend. "Now let's finish up these reports so that we could go home!"


The following week : Third day of the X-Games…


It was a very busy day indeed especially with the large crowds that frequented the X-Games grounds. The various events happened simultaneously, which made things somewhat chaotic. Natsumi was glad that the Kachou had given her the day off on this day. While she was free to do whatever she wanted, the strongwoman of Bokuto decided to spend the day at the X-Games. She was dressed in civilian clothing composed of an open red short-sleeved button-down shirt, a white sleeveless shirt underneath, jean, combat boots, and a baseball hat. At the moment, she was wandering through the grounds often stopping at the bouldering walls, which weren't being used for the moment. From what she heard, the bouldering competition was slated to start in thirty minutes and would involve twenty competitors, ten men and ten women. Basically, competitors were awarded points depending on how far up they scaled a certain course. A perfect score would be awarded if one reached the top. Natsumi couldn't help but stare at the complexity of the courses. There were few handholds and all of the courses had overhangs. She could only imagine what kind of positions the boulderers had to contort their bodies into just to get through the course. Shaking her head, she wandered away and decided to come back once the competition was going to start.

Miyuki, who was in uniform and on duty, bumped into her partner at the half pipe currently being used by the inline skaters. "Did you see her yet?" she asked Natsumi who was gulping down a can of orange soda.

The brunette shook her head. "She's probably with the rest of the competitors in a private area," Natsumi replied, crushing the can and tossing it into a nearby trashcan. "The bouldering competition should be starting soon in any case." She consciously clenched and unclenched her hands.

"Nervous?" Miyuki guessed, giving her friend a sympathetic look.

"Yeah… I don't know what to say to her."

"It'll come to you when the two of you are together," Miyuki assured the older woman. She placed both her hands on Natsumi's shoulders, turned her around and pushed her in the direction of the bouldering walls. "Go on and wait for her. Obviously, you're going to spot her first, but I have a feeling she'll catch sight of you quickly too."

"Because she'll have a good view up high on the walls?" Natsumi guessed.

Miyuki grinned. "Yes and the fact that it's you after all. She might be expecting you."

"She might not even know that I'm here," Natsumi muttered.

"I doubt she hasn't noticed that there are representatives from Bokuto Police Station here," Miyuki reminded her friend, who was shaking her head as she walked off.

By the time Natsumi got back to the bouldering area, the announcer was introducing the competitors. Apparently both the men and women were going to compete at the same time. There were a total of five walls of increasing difficulty each for both the men and women. Natsumi blended in with the crowd of spectators and watched as the female competitors came out of a large white tent and lined up on the edge of the thick crash pads that lined the floor along the bouldering walls. Her breath caught in her throat when she finally saw Aki stride out of the tent, garbed in a sleeveless sports shirt, knee length shorts and blue and silver climbing shoes. As expected, the audience cheered and screamed when they saw the famous model and boulderer.

"All right! We'll begin with the first round for both the men's and women's competition," the announcer said. "First up for the women is Logan Walsh!"

Natsumi drew herself up to her tiptoes as she watched her former charge grab a chalk bag and strap it to the back of her shorts. The police officer could easily see that Aki meant business as the half-Japanese woman walked over to the base of the wall and rubbed chalk into her hands and heavily taped fingers. Despite the noise from the crowd, Aki remained serious as she raised her hand to signal that she was going to start the course. Natsumi held her breath as Aki had to first leap up to grab a large handhold with both hands. The crowd oohed as they watched the muscles in Aki's well-defined arms flex as she pulled herself up and swung her right leg up to hook her foot into another hold. People gasped in awe as Aki freed one hand from her first hold and literally surged upwards and jammed her fingers into a small protruding hold. It took another minute or so for the foreigner to grab the topmost hold, which meant that the competitor completed the course. The crowd cheered for Aki as she hung onto the large rock for a couple of seconds before letting go and falling to the crash pad below her. Before she walked to the rest area, she turned around and waved at the audience.

"She's incredible, huh?" Yoriko spoke up suddenly behind Natsumi, causing the off-duty police officer to jump up in surprise.

"Yoriko! Don't do that!" Natsumi scolded her friend.

The bespectacled officer grinned. "The sports analysts say that she has the highest chance of winning the gold medal. Wouldn't it be romantic if she dedicated a win to you?" She swooned and got giddy, which made other people standing nearby give her strange looks.

Natsumi growled and shoved Yoriko away. "Get back to work!" Thankfully, Yoriko did leave and left Natsumi hidden in the crowd as the rest of the competitors took their turns. Natsumi watched with interest as the commentators explained that those competitors who did not attain the cutoff score for the first wall would be eliminated, while those who passed would move up to the next round. After all the competitors from the women's competition finished the first wall, only six remained. Rather than leave and come back for the final round, Natsumi adamantly stayed and watched Aki scale every wall set before her. Nearly an hour later, it was down to Aki and a German boulderer on the fifth and final wall. It was obvious that this was the most difficult wall to scale being over twenty feet high, with a horizontal overhang and the fewest handholds that were all spaced quite far apart. Natsumi worried about Aki who looked somewhat fatigued, but was concentrating on calculating the best route up the wall.

"For our final round, our first competitor to scale this last wall will be Lena Schmidt from Germany!" the announcer excitedly informed the spectators. Like Aki, the German woman was well built and looked slightly fatigued from the strenuous climbing. Physically, she was two inches taller than Aki and was more muscled, but spectators witnessed that both women were of equal caliber when it came to scaling the walls. It was only the two of them who completed the previous walls while the other knocked out competitors had incomplete climbs.

Natsumi resisted the temptation to move forward to the metal fence that kept the spectators out of the competition area. She had a good enough view where she currently stood and she wasn't exactly willing yet to let Aki see her. From what she gathered, this wall was going to be very tough as she watched Lena Schmidt walk to the base of the wall, which slanted outward at a rather steep angle.

With a deep breath, the German competitor jumped up and grabbed hold of two adjacent handholds spaced more than a foot and a half apart, dangling in the air as she struggled to fix her grip. From there, the next hold was higher and towards the right. It looked impossible to reach, but Lena raised her left foot and released her grip on the left handhold. Grabbing her foot, she raised it until she settled it on the vacated hold then let both her hands renew their grip on the right handhold. Taking some time to collect herself, she then pushed with her left leg and reached out with her right hand and managed to grip the next hold higher up, much to the applause of the audience. She managed to climb up another few feet with less difficulty despite the difficult slant of the wall, but had to pause a moment at the horizontal overhang. There was one handhold underneath and the next one was past the overhang. Obviously, both Lena and Aki would have to hang in the air and try to swing out and reach the next hold above. Lena alternated her hands on the hold underneath the overhang and maintained her feet on the artificial rocks beneath her as she reached behind her back and stuck each hand into her chalk bag. By this time, the German woman was breathing heavily, but after chalking up her hands, she gripped the hanging handhold and let her legs dangle beneath her, drawing gasps from the audience. Arm muscles strained as she tried to maintain her grip. Lena was sucking in huge gasps of air as she swung her body outward and attempted to grab hold of the hold above the edge of the overhang. She missed on her first two tries, but on the third try, she managed to jam her fingers into the small space of the rock. Still hanging in midair with one hand underneath the overhang and the other above it, she released the former and tried to swing out and grab the single handhold above with both hands. Unfortunately, she was already too fatigued and the momentum of swinging out made her lose her grip altogether. The spectators gasped and moaned out in disappointment as the German woman fell to the crash pad.

"Lena Schmidt with a score of seven out of ten points!" the commentator announced as the audience applauded and cheered for the valiant effort of the German woman. "Next up is Logan Walsh!"

As the crowd cheered loudly and surged forward to watch the potentially last climb for the competition, Natsumi couldn't resist any longer and decided to move forward as well. She found a spot at the front, jammed between two other people. She knew that if Aki was to turn around at that moment, she would easily spot her. She watched as Aki shook out both her arms and chalked up her hands once more before starting the course.

Like the previous competitor, Aki tackled the first half of the course in a similar fashion and even stopped at the handhold beneath the overhang to apply another layer of chalk on her hands. To those who were near enough, they could see the half-Japanese woman sweating and breathing heavily as she prepared to take on the part of the course that felled the German woman before her. With one huge breath, Aki released her legs and let them dangle in midair as she clung onto the inverted hold with all her strength. Her arms were now visibly trembling from the effort, but instead of collecting herself like Lena, she swung out right away and managed to grab the hold above the overhang. Natsumi knew that Aki did this so that she could conserve her strength because hanging in midair would have tired her out faster. With two points of contact, one hand in the previous handhold and the other above, the boulderer turned model released the former, swung outward and grabbed onto the artificial rock above her with both hands, drawing cheers and applause from the people below. Suddenly, the spectators gasped as Aki's left hand lost her grip and her body flailed almost violently in midair. The look on Aki's face was tight from the effort of staying on the wall, but it slowly changed to a look of defeat… she was going to give up.

Anger welled in the chest of Natsumi as she watched Aki who looked like she was going to let go of the handhold and fall the crash pad below her. It irked her that Aki was going to give up when the both of them were fierce competitors and never wanted to concede defeat. Drawing in a deep breath, she leaned over the waist high fence and shouted as loudly as she could. "BAKA! DON'T YOU DARE GIVE UP!"

Startled, Aki twisted her head and searched the audience below, spotting a familiar non-uniformed police officer waving a threatening fist up at her. In her shock, she momentarily forgot that she was hanging precariously in the air nearly fifteen feet up with only her right hand keeping her on the wall.

Despite the strange looks and cringes she was getting from the people around her, Natsumi angrily stared up at the raven-haired woman dangling above her. "DON'T YOU EVER GIVE UP!" she angrily shouted. "STOP STARING AND WIN!"

Twisting back around so that she was facing the wall once more, Aki allowed herself one small smile before taking a couple of deep breaths to compose herself. With a loud grunt of effort, she reached up with her left hand and this time managed to grip the handhold with both her hands. Adrenaline rushed through her body as she lifted herself up using her arms with her legs still dangling beneath her. Her right hand quickly shot upward to the next hold and she heard the crowd cheer her on as she finally got a foot secured on the hold beneath her. Technically, even if she didn't finish the course, she would be declared the winner and awarded the gold medal. Still, she was pumped up and was surely going to climb to the top. Looking up, she was a mere five feet away from the top of the wall and she could see the cameraman pointing his camera over the edge to get footage. Determinedly, Aki ignored the burning sensation in her arms and legs and quickly scaled the remaining part of the wall. When she got to the brightly colored last hold, she grabbed hold of it with both hands and allowed herself to dangle from it without any of her feet in contact with the wall. Twisting her body in midair, she released her left hand, formed it into a fist and pumped it into the air. At the same time, she let out a roar of triumph then climbed over the edge and stood at the top of the wall.

"Our winner is Logan Walsh!" the commentator announced happily, watching as the audience raised their arms in the air as Aki stood atop the wall and waved. Soon afterwards, Aki used the stairs attached to the last wall to get back on solid ground and was immediately whisked off to the awarding ceremony.

"In third place, the bronze medal is awarded to Ava Wilson from Australia with a cumulative score of forty-two out of fifty points!" A young woman bearing a bouquet of flowers came forward while an older man in a suit hung the medal around the Australian woman's neck. "In second place, the silver medal is awarded to Lena Schmidt from Germany with a cumulative score of forty-seven out of fifty points!" The silver medal and another bouquet of flowers were given to the German woman while the crowd became more intense with their applause and cheers for what was next. "Finally, our gold medalist with a historic perfect score of fifty out of fifty points…" the commentator paused to add to the drama. "From Los Angeles, California, Logan 'Aki' Walsh!"

Aki tiredly smiled as she accepted the bouquet of flowers and leaned her head forward so that the medal could be put around her neck with ease. She kept smiling and shook hands with her fellow medalists as they were subjected to short interviews and a photo shoot. By the time everything was done, Aki was just about ready to pass out. She made her way to the communal tent shared by the competitors and stowed the flowers and her medal into her duffel bag. More than anything, she wanted a moment of peace and she couldn't get that inside the tent since it was filled with people. Grabbing a couple of bottles of Gatorade, she trudged out of the tent and found a bench several yards away with no people loitering in that area. Aki sighed as she eased herself onto the bench. She was very weary and her arms and legs were burning and throbbing from physical strain. Breathing heavily, Aki took one of the bottles of Gatorade and attempted to twist the cap off. Unfortunately, even her hands and fingers were weak and she couldn't even make the cap budge. "Damn it," Aki muttered and was just about to put the bottle aside when a hand grabbed it from her and easily twisted the cap off. The tired raven-haired woman looked up, amber eyes widening upon realizing that it was Natsumi standing before her.

"Here… drink up. You look really thirsty," Natsumi nervously said, offering the opened bottle back at Aki.

Aki gripped the bottle properly, ensuring that she wouldn't let go of it. "Thanks," she sincerely told the younger woman. She tilted her head back and downed the contents of the bottle in one go and when she finished, she realized that Natsumi had gone ahead and twisted the cap off of the other bottle. This time Aki only drank half then put it aside. Running her hands through her hair first, she then looked up and lost herself in those emerald green orbs.

"Congratulations."

Aki felt her cheeks heat up and felt embarrassed. "I wouldn't have made it if you hadn't shouted at me," she dryly said. "In fact, it couldn't have worked the other way with me falling because your shouting was distracting."

"It didn't distract you!" Natsumi argued. "You finished because I yelled at you to not give up!"

"And I'm thankful that you did," Aki pointed out before Natsumi could argue with her any further. "It…" she cleared her throat. "…you spurred me on when you yelled at me." She looked away, hoping that Natsumi wouldn't see how embarrassed she was. "I would have given up if I didn't hear your voice."

"Oh…" Natsumi felt her heart leap in her chest. "Aki…" she began, stepping forward. "How… how long will you be here?"

"For a week," Aki softly replied, still avoiding Natsumi's gaze. "I promised Auntie Mitsuko that I'd stay for while with her." Both of them remained silent for couple of minutes. "Are you… free tonight?" Aki asked suddenly.

"W-What?" Natsumi looked taken aback by the suddenness of the question. "W-Well… yes…"

"Would you like to… hang out?"

Natsumi nervously tucked her hair behind her ear. "O-Of course…" she stuttered. Once more their eyes locked with each other, emerald and amber. "I…" her breath hitched in her throat. "…would love to spend time with you."

Aki smiled and got to her feet. "Good. Sorry, but I have to freshen up and there are few things I still have to do before I'm free. Do you remember that Japanese restaurant on the hill?"

Natsumi nodded. "It's where you took the traffic department for dinner," she promptly answered.

"Let's meet there at say eight tonight?"

"Alright."

Still feeling like she was going to collapse, Aki stepped closer to Natsumi and with a moment of hesitation, she wrapped her arms around the shorter woman and hugged her. Whispering into her ear, she said, "I'm glad you came to watch me." Having said that, she released the police officer and strode away.

Natsumi stood there, feeling warmth coursing through her veins at what just happened. It was just a simple hug after all, but it was doing crazy things to her. After she felt that she had full control of herself, she then made her way to the security booth occupied by her colleagues from the traffic department. Since it was nearing the end of the day, most of her fellow officers were present including Miyuki, Noriko and Aoi. Nakajima was patrolling the perimeter of the competition grounds so he wasn't present.

Miyuki brightly smiled at her partner as she approached the tent. "I heard Aki won," she remarked.

Natsumi nodded. "She did."

"We also heard that there was a madwoman shouting threats at Aki while she was trying to climb up the last wall," Yoriko mischievously added, garnering herself a warning look from Aoi.

"Hmmmm…" Natsumi merely answered, obviously distracted.

"Natsumi?" Miyuki called out to her friend. "Are you alright?"

"Ah… yeah Miyuki. I'm fine," Natsumi assured her partner with a smile. "Hey, if it's alright, I'm going to go ahead."

Miyuki furrowed her eyebrows at her friend but decided against pressing her for answers. She had a feeling already that she and Aki had already seen each other. "Sure Natsumi. It wouldn't be a problem. Just don't stay out too late."

Natsumi nodded her head and with a wave of her hand to the other officers, she walked off towards the exit.


Later than night…


Natsumi nervously paced outside the Japanese restaurant. She had gone home to the apartment she and Miyuki shared to take a shower and change into clothes that would be more suited for dinner with Aki. Now, she was wearing tight black pants, a dark blue v-neck long-sleeved shirt that exposed just enough of cleavage and open-toed flats. Instead of taking her motorcycle, she opted to take a taxi instead since she had a feeling she was going to consume some alcohol throughout dinner. The police officer glanced at her watch and saw that it was nearly eight in the evening. Aki was probably already inside waiting for her and she didn't want to keep the half-Japanese woman waiting. Steeling her frayed nerves, Natsumi entered the restaurant and asked the hostess if Aki Walsh was seated already.

"Ah yes! She's been here since an hour ago," the hostess informed Natsumi and motioned for her to follow her further into the restaurant. She stopped at a closed door then opened it. "Walsh-san, your dinner companion is here," she announced, ushering Natsumi inside.

Natsumi's eyes automatically locked with those piercing amber orbs and for a moment, she was frozen in place. The hostess had to help her take a seat before she left the two women alone in the private room. Natsumi continued to gaze at the raven-haired woman before her. Aki looked rested and was dressed in tight faded jeans, a three-fourths sleeved white polo shirt, a midnight blue vest over it and comfortable leather shoes. To complete the outfit, Aki was wearing glasses instead of her usual contact lenses.

Aki was the first to speak. "I know that it's good manners to wait for your dinner companion before ordering, but I took the liberty of ordering the best food from here as well as a jar of heated sake." She worriedly looked at Natsumi who was still staring at her. "Is it alright?"

Natsumi shook herself out of her trance. "Yes, it's quite alright!" she answered, just as two waiters came in with several dishes, which they laid out on their table. Another waiter came in with a smaller table and he placed the warmed jar of sake atop it before leaving the room with his fellow co-workers.

"Please," Aki gestured at the food. She and Natsumi ate their way through the appetizers, sushi and were in the process of eating Wagyu steak when they spoke again. "Is it good?" Aki asked Natsumi, who was wolfing down the steak.

The brunette quickly chewed her food and swallowed before answering the question aimed at her. "It's wonderful!" she exclaimed with a smile. She then eyed the jar of sake, which Aki took from the table and proceeded to pour for the both of them. "I haven't had this since I left," she remarked, drinking the sake down. "It's still as good as I remembered." She sighed as the familiar warmth coursed down her throat and down her chest.

Natsumi smiled and downed her cup of sake as well before reasserting herself with her steak. By the time the food was gone, both she and Aki were quite mellow from the amount of sake they ingested. "What have you been doing since I went back home from LA?" she asked Aki.

"Not much bouldering," Aki replied, swirling the sake in her cup before gulping it down. "This was my first major bouldering competition since we last saw each other. I was actually thinking about dropping out of the competition because I haven't been able to train much with all the modeling jobs I had at the time. Fortunately, my bosses gave me free time when I told them that I intended to compete in the X-Games." She shrugged her shoulders and refilled their cups. "They understood at least that I wouldn't be able to be of some competition if I didn't train."

"It was one hell of a bouldering competition," Natsumi pointed out. "It was really intense."

Aki nodded her head in agreement then placed her empty cup on the table. "And you? What have you been up to since you got back?" she asked. "Did you and Miyuki make up?"

Natsumi nodded her head. "She was the one who picked me up at the airport and well, she forgave me easily," she said sheepishly. The brunette looked down at her hands on her lap. "You were right…"

"Right about what?" Aki asked.

The officer looked up into Aki's amber eyes. "That Miyuki knew that you had feelings for me."

Aki released a long sigh, got to her feet and opened the door. She called for the bill before sitting down once more. "I always thought that your partner has good intuition. She caught me looking at you several times but she never once said anything about it." The boulderer shook her head as the waiter came inside and presented her the bill, which she paid for in cash. "Please keep the change," she told him as she got back onto her feet. "Walk with me?" she asked her companion.

Natsumi got to her feet and followed Aki out of the restaurant. She stayed a few steps back as they made their way to the top of the hill and towards a familiar bench that brought back memories. She sat on the bench as Aki walked over to the railing and gazed at the lit-up skyline.

"Do you know what I was feeling when the two of us were last here?" Aki suddenly asked, keeping her gaze on the skyline instead of Natsumi. Not waiting for an answer, she said, "That I really didn't want to leave even though I was saying the opposite and other crap."

Natsumi felt a lump form in her throat. "Why didn't you want to leave then?" She got to her feet and joined Aki by the railing. She looked up at the taller woman who at that moment chose to face her.

"Do you even have to ask?" Aki slowly asked, her amber eyes seemingly glowing in the night.

Natsumi blushed and looked down at her feet. She realized that she and Aki were standing so close to each other. "…me?" she finally asked in a soft voice.

"Yes…" Aki replied in an equally soft voice. She then let out a chuckle. "I was in a dilemma at that moment," she informed Natsumi. "Instead of telling you that I was going to go back to California, I wanted to confess my feelings for you then and there. My head won over my heart though." She slowly reached out and took Natsumi's hand into her own. "I told you before that I didn't want to scare you off…" she paused and tightened her grip on Natsumi's hand. "I'm still hoping that I won't scare you off with what I'm going to say."

Emerald green orbs shimmered. "Aki…"

"I want to be with you," Aki blurted out, her face turning crimson. "I want you to stay by my side forever. I never want to be apart from you!" With her other hand, she reached up and cupped Natsumi's heated cheek. "Nothing will make me any happier and I want to make you happy as well." She let out a long breath and finally took that moment to look at both of Natsumi's hands. Her eyes widened in surprise. "It's not there."

Natsumi nodded and showed Aki her fingers, which were devoid of any jewelry. "It… took a while to come to terms," she told the taller woman. "I honestly didn't know whether I could find it in myself to love again after Shouji died." Her chin trembled as she felt like she was about to cry, but she held it in. "About three weeks ago, I had the day off and did some soul searching I suppose." Natsumi reached down once more and gripped Aki's hands. It comforted her as she gave her explanation. "I realized that I would be a depressed old maid if I kept thinking that I would never learn to love again. In the end, I told myself that I'm blessed that Shouji taught me how to love and that I shouldn't let the fire die just because he's gone."

"Natsumi-"

The officer placed two fingers against Aki's lips, which silenced her. "What I'm really trying to say is that…" she paused and felt her eyes becoming teary and blurry. "I want to be with you too, Aki," she passionately confessed to the older woman. "It doesn't matter that we're both women and I don't give a damn what other people will say. I've never felt so at ease and happy with anyone else." The tears finally overflowed from her emerald green eyes. Natsumi flung herself into Aki's chest and cried. "Please... stay with me. Don't leave me alone," she whispered, rubbing her face into the front of Aki's chest.

A heavy weight lifted off Aki's chest upon hearing Natsumi's admission. On instinct, she wrapped her arms around Natsumi and fiercely hugged her. "I'm… glad that you feel the same way," she whispered into Natsumi's hair. She pulled back slightly and cupped Natsumi's face with her hands. Using the pads of her thumbs, she gently wiped the tears and away and smiled ever so lovingly at the police officer. She brought her face closer to Natsumi's until it was inches away. "Natsumi… I love you. I want you to know that I've loved you for a while now." Her amber eyes smoldered with passion. "I will never deny my feelings for you ever again."

Natsumi nodded her head and wrapped her arms around Aki's neck, pulling her closer. "I love you too, Aki." With that, she took the initiative and pulled Aki down the remaining distance until their lips touched. Heat seared through her body, a kind of heat that was different from the one induced by the sake she just drank. For the first time in over a year, she felt content and loved. They broke the kiss soon afterwards and gazed lovingly at each other, slightly out of breath.

"I should bring you home," Aki said, caressing Natsumi's cheek. "You have work tomorrow, am I right?"

Natsumi cursed and nodded her head. She did have work the following day at the X-Games grounds since the other competitions were still ongoing. "I do…" she admitted, suddenly coming to a decision. "But I could always call in sick for tomorrow."

Aki raised an eyebrow at her former security escort. "You're not even hung over, Natsumi," she reminded the younger woman.

Natsumi stepped closer to Aki once more, leaning up on her tiptoes so that she could whisper in the taller woman's ear. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to be dead tired tomorrow," she told her lover in a very seductive voice, feeling Aki flinch. "Do you need me to be more specific?" she asked Aki after she pulled away. "I want you…" she needfully said. "Come home with me… okay?" For a moment, she was afraid that Aki would refuse.

"Alright…" Aki finally agreed. "But what about Miyuki?"

Natsumi shrugged and took hold of Aki's hand, leading her back down the hill towards the intersection where they would most likely flag down a taxi. "If she's home, she'll probably be asleep already. She's been working at the X-Games grounds since early this morning."

Aki nervously laughed. "Well, I hope you're right then. I wouldn't want to… disturb her."

Natsumi grinned and eagerly flagged down the first taxi she saw. She told him her address then settled down in the back seat, holding onto Aki's hand the whole ride.

The lights were off when they finally walked into the abode shared by Natsumi and Miyuki. All was quiet so they could only guess that Miyuki was indeed asleep or still out. They had just taken off their shoes when Natsumi couldn't hold herself back any longer. The brunette pounced on Aki and pulled her down for a rough and needy kiss. Aki's hands roved across Natsumi's body, swallowing her lusty moans and whimpers through their kiss. The raven-haired woman's mind was muddled, but she was sure of one thing: she was going to make sure that Natsumi knew and felt the depth of her love. They noisily stumbled down the hall and into Natsumi's room and fell onto the bed where clothes were quickly discarded. The meeting of heated flesh heightened the building lust and passion. Neither woman got much sleep that night.


The next morning…


Natsumi was slow to wake up, but she was quick to notice that she wasn't sharing her bed anymore. Sitting up, she held the sheets against her bared chest and groggily looked around her room. Where had Aki gone? She swung her legs off the bed and wrapped the sheet around her body. Padding across her room, she opened her door and peeked outside. From her place, she heard voices talking in the kitchen. Unable to control her curiosity, the somewhat tired police officer left the confines of her room and walked down the hall though she stumbled a few times because her feet would get caught in the sheets. Once she got to the kitchen, she couldn't help but blush. Aki was sitting at the dining table clad only in her wrinkled polo shirt from the night before. Beneath the table, her long bare legs were crossed, but she didn't seem to be embarrassed despite the fact that Miyuki was behind the kitchen counter brewing coffee and making breakfast.

Aki looked up and smiled at the scantily clad Natsumi. "Morning," she greeted her lover with a wink.

"M-Morning," Natsumi stuttered back her reply, keeping her hands on the sheets around her body to prevent herself from flashing her apartment mate and girlfriend. Still blushing, she glanced at her blue-haired partner who was giving her a knowing smile. "Ermmm… were you home last night, Miyuki?"

The mechanic checked the coffee maker and poured a mug for Aki before choosing to answer the question. "Yes, I was home last night," she replied. "And yes, I heard everything," she added before Natsumi could ask. She laughed as Natsumi turned into a deeper shade of crimson. "Don't worry, I still managed to get some sleep although I had to put headphones over my ears."

"Sorry Miyuki," Aki apologized as she gratefully took a sip of her freshly brewed coffee. "I told Natsumi that I didn't want to intrude since we might disturb you, but she was insistent that I come home with her."

Miyuki shrugged her shoulders and went back to making their breakfast as well her packed lunch for the day. "I had a feeling that you and Natsumi were going to meet up last night even though she didn't say anything to me yesterday. If things went well between you, I guessed that the two of you would have taken it to your hotel and not to our apartment."

"Awww Miyuki!" Natsumi whined. "Our apartment was closer compared to Aki's hotel!"

"Anyway, I'm glad that the two of you are together," Miyuki breathed out. "Now why don't you get changed into something decent and find some clothes to lend Aki?"

Natsumi frowned. "But she looks sexy in that!" she protested.

"Natsumi!" Miyuki warned.

"The after-sex look really suits her!"

"Go to your room!" Miyuki barked, sending her partner scurrying back into her bedroom. Shaking her head, she muttered, "That woman… she's so impulsive sometimes."

Aki chuckled. "It's charming in any case. I like it that she speaks her mind."

Miyuki had to agree that it was a good trait in certain situations. "I'll have your breakfast ready soon, Aki," she promised her former charge. She was serving Aki a steaming bowl of rice, miso soup, broiled fish and egg when Natsumi joined them. Her partner was decent in exercise shorts and a tank top. In her arms, she carried a t-shirt and loose jogging pants.

"Here are some clothes, Aki," Natsumi handed the articles of clothing to Aki. "Hopefully, the pants will fit although I think they'll be a little short since you're taller than I am." She gestured at the bathroom down the hall. "You could freshen up after breakfast."

Aki smiled. "Thank you, Natsumi." She motioned for her lover to sit with her at the table. "Before you eat, didn't you say you were going to call in sick today?"

"Oh shit!" Natsumi cursed and ran over to the cordless phone. She quickly dialed the Kachou's direct line and waited for her commanding officer to pick up. "Kachou? Tsujimoto here. I just wanted to call in and inform you that I'll be unable to go to work today. I'm running a high fever, but I'm sure I'll be able to get back to work tomorrow." She listened for a couple of seconds then nodded her head. "Thank you, Kachou!" She then hung up and returned to the table to join Miyuki and Aki in eating breakfast.

"That went surprisingly well," Miyuki remarked. "I would have thought that the Kachou would have asked more questions."

"I'm just lucky today," Natsumi cheerfully chirped then applied herself with gusto at her breakfast. She was going through her second bowl of rice when she noticed Miyuki eyeing her. "What?" she demanded. "Why are you staring at me?"

Miyuki sighed as she took her empty dishes and brought it to their kitchen sink. "If you plan to go out later today, make sure you cover up properly." She gestured at the numerous red marks that covered Natsumi's neck and chest. "It looks like you truly had a wild night just seeing those hickeys on you."

Natsumi dropped her chopsticks and vainly tried to cover her marked flesh with her hands. "Ehhhh! It's not my fault Miyuki! It was Aki who did it!"

"It doesn't matter if it's Aki's fault! Just make sure you cover yourself up if you do decide to go out!" Miyuki scolded her partner. "In any case, I have to go and report for work."

"Have a good day, Miyuki," Aki told the blue-haired mechanic. "We should meet up with the other officers from the traffic department."

"I'll be sure to mention that to them when we see each other later." Grabbing her packed lunch, Miyuki bid the two women goodbye then headed out of the apartment.

While Natsumi wolfed down her remaining breakfast, Aki leisurely sat back and finished her coffee. For a moment, she thought that she had taken Natsumi to bed too fast, but then again Natsumi wanted it as well. She had to remind herself that the tension between them since they last saw each other in LA had been so great that she already expected that one of them was going to jump the gun the next time they would meet. Aki was right all along, neither she nor Natsumi could hold back and they had their way with each other the previous night. Aki softly smiled to herself when she realized last night how much of a wildcat Natsumi was in bed. It had been almost as intense as her bouldering competition. Looking at Natsumi who was just about finished eating, she said, "I should change."

Natsumi looked up and pouted at her lover. "Can't you let me enjoy that look of yours a bit longer?" she complained. Her emerald green eyes roved up and down Aki's body.

"Well since you've got the day off, I suppose you could look all you want in the meantime," Aki replied, stretching her lithe body. "I have to leave in a couple of hours though. Auntie Mitsuko is expecting me for lunch."

Natsumi grinned as she got to her feet and coyly wrapped her arms around Aki's neck. "A couple of hours is good enough for a second round," she remarked in a seductive voice.

Aki grinned but allowed Natsumi to drag her back into the bedroom. "You're insatiable," she accused her lover who pushed her back onto the bed and straddled her waist. "We went at it for maybe five times and you still want more?" She continued laughing as her lover furiously unbuttoned her shirt and threw it onto the floor.

Once Aki lay naked beneath her, Natsumi leaned forward and nuzzled the crook of Aki's neck. "I want to relive that feeling as many times as possible," she growled, nipping the sensitive skin that connected Aki's neck and shoulder.

"And what feeling is that?"

Natsumi smiled into Aki's neck then let her hands wander down the front of her lover's chest, eliciting a deep intake of breath from her. "I'll just show you, Aki," she sultrily replied.


It took forever to update, but at least it's finally here. I no longer want to keep any of my other fanfiction stories hanging for much longer so I've been trying my best to write despite how busy I am with work.

In any case, this particular story will continue for another two chapters and possibly an epilogue. As I said, I'd really like to complete the other stories I've left hanging here on fanfiction.